5 tech trends you don’t want to miss at CES 2016

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Tech is taking over Vegas for the week.
Tech is taking over Vegas for the week.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Cult of Mac CES 2016 full coverage 2016 is here and that can only mean one thing: It’s time for CES.

The world’s biggest consumer electronics show, CES 2016, is getting underway this week in Las Vegas, which means nerds and all the companies that make the gadgets they love are instinctively flocking to the desert oasis like the salmon of Capistrano.

This year’s show promises to be bigger than ever, with all the latest tech trends on full display. Cult of Mac will be on the scene all week long bring hands-on looks at the coolest and weirdest gadgets CES has to offer.

Here’s what we expect to see at the show:

2016 could be the year Apple goes crazy for VR

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2016 could be the year Apple goes crazy for VR
VR may be happening soon,  and Apple might want to jump in.
VR may be happening soon, and Apple might want to jump in.
Photo: Sergey Galyonkin/Wikipedia CC

Apple might need to play catch-up in the coming year with Oculus, Samsung, and Sony already promoting their own brand of virtual reality (VR) headsets and technologies.

Virtual reality is the next big thing, and we’ll see a ton of it at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for sure, but one analyst has already jumped in with his predictions about Cupertino’s chances for another hit product in the VR space.

Virtual reality is now as cheap as Cardboard on iOS

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I can’t wait for the virtual reality future to finally go mainstream, but with company’s like Oculus talking about charging people over $1,500 for an entire Rift package, VR is virtually out of my price-range. Thankfully, Google is coming up with an easy-to-use VR solution that’s not only as cheap as a piece of cardboard, it works on Android and iOS too.

8 fantastic crowdfunding projects every techie ought to love

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Build it and they will come!

Crowdfunding has been one of the best things to happen to entrepreneurs since the invention of the IPO. It's been pretty great for technophiles, too, giving us the chance to get involved with exciting projects at the earliest stage possible. Scouring through the pages of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, we've put together a list of the eight most tantalizing projects we've seen so far. What are they? Peruse our gallery to find out.

Picture: William Hall Raine/Flickr

SITU smart food scale

SITU is an attractive Bluetooth food scale that talks to your iPad. Created by former Apple employee Michael Grothaus — who came up with the idea while sitting in Apple’s Caffè Macs cafeteria — the device lets you see the exact nutritional content of any food you place on it, based on the food’s weight and broken down into calories, sugar, salt, protein, vitamins and minerals. The device itself is beautiful, too, with a simple but pleasing design that could have come straight out of Jony Ive’s workshop.

Preorders will be available on SITU’s official site next month.

Lunecase smart iPhone case

“This one weird trick” is usually a cue you’re in a part of the Internet where somebody is trying to convince you a British woman figured out a way to nab a new iPhone for just $10, or a guy worked out a totally safe steroid substitute doctors don’t want you know about. Not so in the case of Lunecase.

This iPhone case's one weird trick isn’t massively useful, but it is pretty cool nonetheless: Lunecase uses your device’s electromagnetic radiation to tell you of alerts you receive, then lights up the appropriate symbol on back to show if you’re getting a phone call or text message. Currently available for pre-order.

Elevation iPhone Dock

Milled from solid aluminum, the Elevation is the iPhone dock we wish Apple would make. What does it have over other docks? Attractive design, physical weight and an easy docking/undocking function, to name a few positives. There have been several versions since the first iteration of the Elevation Dock, but this is one crowdfunding project that definitely connected with the crowd needed to support it. Currently available for sale through its official website.

Pebble smartwatch

Apple is looking to out-feature this smartwatch with its long-awaited iWatch, but the Pebble is still a great device that works perfectly with your iPhone. Originally asking for just $100,000 on Kickstarter, the Pebble project ended up raking in a massive $10,266,845 in backer support. From its seamless integration with iOS — for notifications and easy control of iTunes and the like — to its own dedicated watch apps, Pebble is one of the best smartwatches to date.

How good is it? Even if the iWatch can do everything it’s rumored to do, I can still see why some users would stick with the Pebble.

PonoPlayer

Have you heard the one about Neil Young’s high-definition iPod? I’ll admit I chuckled when I heard about the PonoPlayer, as did a lot of people, but few were laughing when the project racked up $6,225,354 in backer support against a stated goal of $800,000. With "Pono" being a Hawaiian word for “righteous” or “pureness,” the PonoPlayer hopes to deliver the same kind of leap from today’s MP3s that we saw when cassette tapes made way for CDs.

Young’s goal is that our "cultural history should be preserved for enjoyment of the people in its highest possible form forever.” And despite the PonoPlayer's slightly wacky design, he’s convinced it's the tool to accomplish it. Pono will soon begin shipping more than 15,000 PonoPlayers to its Kickstarter backers.

MagBak iPad mount

Is there any more obvious sign of the increasing role computers are playing in our lives than the fact that we now use them in the kitchen? Even 20 years ago, the idea that we would want to expose our laptops or desktops to the same surface we were chopping meat and onions on would have seemed preposterous. If you’re anything like me, that changed the moment the iPad came along, and you got used to being able to watch TV or check out a recipe while you were cooking. The MagBak, a super-thin iPad case that lets you magnetically stick your tablet to your fridge door, is particularly great for this application. It’s a neat design and works excellently.

Available in several versions for Apple’s various iPads, the MagBak is available for sale through its official website, priced at $39.

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Oculus Rift

One of the biggest — and arguably most controversial — crowdfunding campaigns was for the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset. One of the biggest because it saw backers pledge $2,437,429 against a $250,000 goal; one of the most controversial because after that influx of capital from the well-meaning public, the Oculus' creators promptly sold pit to Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook empire for the grand sum of $2 billion.

Everyone, with the conspicuous absence of Apple (for now!), is announcing VR projects today. With possible applications in everything from video games to movies, it’s looking like one of the most exciting paradigm shifts to hit tech in years.

As for Oculus’ current status? We’re waiting for the second big iteration, but Oculus VR is currently cracking down on people looking to turn a profit by selling their preordered devices before they even ship.

Duet Bluetooth tag

Compared to the world of virtual reality promised by Oculus, a device that makes your phone beep when you lose it sounds pretty minor. But just because a device solves a relatively run-of-the-mill, commonplace problem doesn’t mean there’s no demand for it. The Duet's Indiegogo campaign proved that perfectly, when it surged past its $5,000 goal by 2,137 percent to raise $106,830.

The Duet is a smart Bluetooth tag that watches out for your iPhone. Working with the PROTAG app, the tag attaches to your key chain, bag or wallet and then searches for your smartphone (or vice versa), allowing you to quickly and easily find whichever of your precious personal belongings have been misplaced. At time of writing, backers have started receiving their devices.